Saturday, May 31, 2008

Saturday extra

Woke up to country music because apparently that's all they play in Florida.
Got a free breakfast up the hall.
It's pushing 10:00.

Launch is scheduled for 5:02 PM. Double checking... yep 7 hours to go. The window sign says I need to be at Kennedy Space Center by 2:00.

There no address on the website or paperwork. I can't just punch it into my GPS system and go. I'll have to resort to...MAPS! Satellite footage and maps don't completely line up.

I guess I'll grab a book and head on out. The brochure make it look like I can kill a day out there.

Phil Plait, the blogger behind the Bad Astronomy website and related books is gonna be there. I couldn't find a copy of his book to get him to sign. No guarantee we'll be at the same place anyway.

No bags, no pretty much everything. I should be able to take my camera, however.

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm off.

I'm enroute to Orlando.

Washington, DC (METRO)
Virginia/North Carolina border
Rocky Mount
Southern Pines
North Carolina/South Carolina border
South Carolina/Georgia border
Georgia/Florida border
Winter Park

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Doctor Who's new Executive Producer

Russell T Davies is leaving Doctor Who after this season. He's the one credited with making the new show a hit, as well as the spinoff "Torchwood", and there's been much nail biting over whether the show will survive the new guy. But I just found out that Dr Who writer Steven Moffat will be taking the helm.

Moffat wrote all the good "hide behind the couch" episodes since the show came back. He wrote the two parter "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances" with the little boy in the gas mask who keeps calling for his "maaaaaaah-meeeee". He wrote "The Girl in the Fireplace" with the clockwork robots. And he wrote the truly terrifying "Blink" with the statues that move when you're not looking at them. He also wrote the bit where Doctor 10 (David Tennant) and Doctor 5 (Peter Davidson) met. He's probably best known as the creator and sole writer for the British version of "Coupling".

Hearing that Moffat is taking over Doctor Who is kind of like hearing that Joss Whedon was doing Wonder Woman. You just don't need to hear anything else about it. It WILL work. (Yes, I know Joss Whedon is off the project. If that's how the producers are thinking then clearly it has "FAIL" written all over it.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Business name FAIL

Seen on 14th street on my way to work.

From Monty Python
MAN: Good morning.
UNDERTAKER: What can I do for you, squire?
MAN: Well, I wonder if you can help me. You see, my mother has just died.
UNDERTAKER: Ah well, we can help you. We deal with stiffs.
MAN: What?
UNDERTAKER: Well, there's three things we can do with your mum. We can bury her, burn her, or dump her.
MAN: (shocked) Dump her?
UNDERTAKER: Dump her in the Thames.
MAN: What?
UNDERTAKER: Oh, did you like her?
MAN: Yes!
UNDERTAKER: oh well, we won't dump her then. Well, what do you think? We can bury her or burn her.
MAN: Well, which do you recommend?
UNDERTAKER: Well, they're both nasty. If we burn her she gets stuffed in the flames... crackle crackle crackle... which is a bit of a shock if she's not quite dead, but quick. And then we give you a handful of ashes, which you can pretend were hers.
MAN: Oh.
UNDERTAKER: Or if we bury her, she gets eaten up by lots of weevils and nasty maggots, which as I said before is a bit of a shock if she's not quite dead.
MAN: I see. Well, she's definitely dead.
UNDERTAKER: Where is she?
MAN: She's in this sack.
UNDERTAKER: Can I have a look? She looks quite young.
MAN: Yes, yes, she was.
UNDERTAKER (calling): Fred!
UNDERTAKER: I think we've got an eater.
MAN: What?!?
FRED (peeking head round the door): Right, I'll get the oven on.(goes off)
MAN: Er, excuse me, um.... are you suggesting eating my mother?
UNDERTAKER: Er... yeah, not raw. Cooked.
MAN: What?
UNDERTAKER: Yes, roasted with a few french fries, broccoli, horseradish sauce...
MAN: Well, I do feel a bit peckish.
MAN: Can we have some parsnips?
UNDERTAKER (calling): Fred... get some parsnips.
MAN: I really don't think I should.
UNDERTAKER: Look, tell you what.... we'll eat her, if you feel a bit guilty about it after, we can dig a grave and you can throw up in it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

How do you explain to a kid who is too young to have seen an Indiana Jones movie why it should be excited about a new one? It's easy to find those kids. It's almost how kid is defined. It's been 19 years since "Last Crusade". Feeling old yet?

This wasn't the first attempt at Indiana Jones IV. I know of at least three other attempts. One of which I was personally involved with. OK, so the guy writing it leased office space from an old roommate of mine. I still got to meet the man several times and learn a it about what he was writing.

Like "Last Crusade", "Crystal Skull" is very self referential. Marcus Brody is dead but still manages to help Indy out in some small way. Still others return after a long absence. There are reused lines, familiar scenery, traps, and camera work, and even one of the cities on the map is familiar if only you spoke Jovitos. Heck, they even reference one of the Indiana Jones movies that never got made.

I'll try to sum up the movie without giving away anything of value.

Time has passed. It's 1957 Dr. Jones has been busy. Besides archaeology he also fought in the war and spent time working for some intelligence agencies. The movie begins with a military convoy heading to a military base in the desert where some weapons testing is to be done. Soviets manage to infiltrate the base. This is when we first see the hat followed shortly by The Man in the Hat. The Soviets are after something that Indy helped recover 10 years ago and was handed over to "Top. Men." No, not that. Something else. Something that ties the initial adventure into the rest of the movie.

Indy manages to get away, of course, but in doing so manages to get himself in even bigger trouble, of course. He gets out, gets interrogated, returns to school, and is suspended. Then is chases by KGB agents around the streets of wherever he's supposed to be. This whole first half hour or so just doesn't feel very Indiana Jones. Maybe it's just too 1950s. The heavy blue screening certainly doesn't help.

But soon enough we head for South America and the movie flows a bit better. Only a bit. Everything still seems to come a bit too easy.

Skipping a lot, the movie ends with the message that Shia LaBeouf isn't about to pick up the hat for Indiana Jones V if it comes up.

Now the big question. Will I get this movie on DVD? If this were the only Indiana Jones movie I'd probably say no. It's a lot of fun but I don't see myself watching it over and over. But it is Indiana Jones and my copies of the first three are all on VHS. I'll probably buy the inevitable 4-pack when it comes out.

If you've seen the earlier movies you should definitely go see this one.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Movie Review: Superman: Doomsday

Long, long ago, when I was still in high school, Superman died at the hands of a monster called Doomsday. That's when I started collecting comics. Now whenever a superhero dies people joke that the next issue will have four of him until the real one returns a year later.

Last year a straight to video movie came out telling a version of the story. There were a few changes. Much like in Spiderman 3 where it would have been too much of a pain to tell the story about how Spiderman was kidnapped to another dimension to fight a godlike alien with a bunch of other Marvel heroes and returned home with a symbiote that became his new costume so they just had it drop from the sky.

Instead of just having a mysterious box under ground for Doomsday to punch his way out of they had Lex Luthor's people uncover it.
Instead of telling the story of all the other superheroes that tackled him and got their butts kicked before Superman could get there the creature just went straight for Metropolis and they jumped straight into it.
And they wrapped up the title storyline in only 30 minutes.

The aftermath is significantly different for obvious reasons.
The original had a bad clone, a robot, a guy in a suit, and a chunk of Kryptonian tech all pretending to be Superman. The Kryptonian tech kept the body in a crypt that leeched off Superman's powers so he could use it. It was that crypt that brought him back.
This had Luthor steal the body and create an army of Superman clones that he could control or destroy. That is until one of the robots in the Fortress of Solitude realized that Superman was still alive but had heartbeats 17 days apart and recovered him.

Supes gets the black suit from the original story and works on recovering his power instead of putting on a mechanical power suit and teaming up with some of the new Supermen. He then has to go fight one of the clones who has freed himself from Lex's grip and started imposing corporal punishment on the streets of Metropolis.

DC/Warner Brothers has a good team of writers for their cartoons. Whether or not they do for the comics and movies is a discussion for another time. But I am consistently impressed with the writing for their cartoon movies and TV shows.

A note: There's one scene where the Superclone fights Toyman and destroys his mechanical spider. A chubby man with a beard who looks and sounds remarkably like writer/director Kevin Smith (because he is) says "Yeah, like we really needed him to bust up the mechanical spider, right? Lame!"
That's because Kevin Smith once wrote a script for Superman V that had a giant robot spider because the producer demanded it.

The whole story. 19 minutes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whatever doesn't kill...

list assembled with some help. Forgive a bit of repetition of themes. makes you stronger. makes you stranger. probably hurt like crazy. has just royally pissed me off. can still maim you horribly. should have asked me for help. shows that you can't even kill yourself properly. wasn't what the snake book said it was. shows why you should never trust a cheap hit man. needs to try harder next time. obviously hates me. still might turn you into a lifeless vegetable, unable to communicate with the world yet still able experience every excruciating second of your life [staring up at a 45 deg angle at the same three fluorescent tube light bulbs, the occasional nurse, and the relatives who visit less and less each year preaching to you how they still have hope about your recovery] until they finally decide to pull the life support twenty years later[, but only after a long court battle with people who have never met you think that keeping you alive is better than allowing nature to take its course].

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Doctor Who as lesson plan

I've gotten several kids hooked on the new Doctor Who. One is a sharp kid who I can loan my disks and gets most of the references. The other two are waiting for me when I get home so they can come see new episodes. These two went to DC public schools and can't finish reading the opening scroll to Star Wars before it vanishes.

I try to help them understand the references as best I can. It really makes good jumping off points for lesson plans.

One of the first lessons was what a Police Box is and it's historical equivalent here in DC that I mentioned here a couple of weeks back.

One episode features Charles Dickens. The kids knew the name and knew about "A Christmas Carol" but never connected the two.

In one of the early episodes the sun expands and consumes the Earth in about 5 billion years. I was able to give them a brief summary of the life cycles of stars and how in 5-6.5 billion years the sun will expand as the fuel runs out and consume everything out to Mars. This came back later when the Doctor landed on a planet orbiting a black hole. They remembered where black holes come from.

Yesterday they learned about Shakespeare. They knew the name and recognized a couple of quotes. Then they asked if he was dead. I get that a lot from DC kids. No perspective about time and history. When I reminded them that what they were seeing was based 400 years ago in 1599 they knew he was good and dead. They also learned about several words that Shakespeare created.

Another particularly dim local kid can tell me the year that George Washington was born but then asks if I know him. Not "did I know him" but "DO I know him".

Also yesterday was an episode in New York during the Great Depression. I paused several times to explain what points of the story were true. Yes, the economy was so bad in the US that there were Hoovervilles (and what those were) and people were willing to do smelly, filthy work for a dollar a day. Yes, that's when the Empire State Building was built. Luckily they'd seen the Daleks before and I didn't need to explain that they weren't real.

But there were other points that I had to explain weren't real. I can kind of understand why. I mean if black holes are real why aren't sonic screwdrivers. Yes, Earth formed as bits of dust and rock collected and were pulled together into a large mass. No, the space craft of a bunch of giant spider aliens hiding from the Time Lords wasn't what pulled all that dust and rock together in the first place.

They learned about London and the Blitz during WWII. They've learned about Queen Elizabeth and all the attempts on her life. They learned about Madame De Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, King of France.

Plus, I leave the closed captioning on all the time in the hopes that they'll sink in a bit better.

I did the same thing when I loaned them "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" a couple of months ago. They'd heard of a bit more than half the people in the movie but still missed some of the gags like Sigmund Freud and his corndog.
I just realized, I never told them that Bill and Ted's time traveling phone booth was a spoof on Doctor Who's time traveling Police Box.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

These aren't the people in your neighborhood

I've started looking up some people in Orlando I know. After all, gonna be down there for who knows how long without even knowing the good dining facilities.

Really, it's not just people I know but two women I once had long distance relationships with.

Alas, one has moved out of Florida a few months ago. We exchanged e-mails several times a day while I was looking for my first job out of college. Played chess by e-mail. Still in touch from time to time. Married, moved several times.

The other, the love of my life henceforth known as "Soul Crusher", has an incredibly common name. I'm finding a couple of dozen of her in Orlando.
My brother knew her as well. He told me some rumor he heard about her. I just today found out it's true. There's her wedding announcement in some archive. 23 June 2002.

Damn fool woman gave up her dream job and moved back to Podunk, KS. Last time we talked she was cutting off all ties before moving there. Fresh start an' all that. But apparently she was still in touch with one guy. Probably went to Orlando, got lonely, no friends, no family, there's this one old voice in her life, mistakes companionship for love and gives up being where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do for him.

She's sodding brilliant she was! Female engineer. And a good one. Wanted to work for NASA. Got a job at Lockheed Martin. When I was there in 2002 I was terrified and hoping that I'd run into her.

But she blew it! She moved back to Podunk. There's nothing in Podunk for her. Nothing but him.

Not that I thought we'd get back together. No, burn me twice and all that.


Twice upon a time we were mad for each other albeit over the phone. Twice upon a time she tore my heart from me and casually tossed it under some passing car. I'd still look her up from time to time when I was in a particularly depressed and self destructive funk. Never called her.


Coulda been me. Shoulda been me. I thought she was deliberately messing with my emotions there at the end. Maybe she was. Maybe she was trying to drive me out of her life. Maybe maybe maybe. If I'd been able to keep a cool head maybe I'd have moved to Florida. Maybe if I'd kept a cool head she'd have moved to DC. But if I'd been able to keep a cool head around her the relationship wouldn't have been one where either of us would even consider moving for the other.

He'd better be making her happy. She gave up enough for him.

Monday, May 19, 2008


It's about 1 PM on Sunday and I'm thinking about this weeks blogs. Not a lot to write really.

I didn't go see Prince Caspian and I probably won't. For the high production values of the first Narnia movie, the sets, CGI, music, adherence to source material, etc. I walked out feeling pretty meh about it. If there were a dollar theater around I might go see it after I read that book.

I'm reading real books again, but none really close to done.

I need to go shopping for new jeans but I'm putting it off until next weekend. I figure I'll go out to White Flint to get jeans, a copy of "Stratego" from the "Toys R Us" out there, and see the new Indiana Jones movie.

My Florida stuff is pretty much covered. I've seriously curtailed my dining out in order to pay for my deck and the Florida trip of indeterminate length. I'll probably be able to pull off both but it'll be tight.

Oh, and I found out that an old... well, not girlfriend, certainly not lover, let's say woman-with-whom-I-shared-an-all-consuming-passion-over-the-telephone got married. More on that tomorrow.

A truck is going to show up some day and haul junk from my backyard so they can start installing the deck. My man Eric told me to throw whatever I want rid of back there. So I'm stepping up a couple of projects and some house cleaning so I can complete said projects. The ceiling in my stairwell is coming down. And hopefully the kitchen ceiling, too before they get here. I probably won't push ahead on those projects for some time due to budgetary purposes. Florida, deck, and save up for a furnace in the fall.

Did some lawn work yesterday.

So, you know, rather laid back weekend really.

Friday, May 16, 2008


There are some people who have the attitude that dating is no big deal. Some even think it's fun. These people are idiots. These people also get people to agree to date them from time to time. Dating is a hyperstressful hell that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Part of the anxiety comes from the time when showing interest in a woman meant suffering even greater than normal abuse by the bulk of society. "Society" at that point being classmates. If I actually liked a girl I had to be sure to never show it not just to protect myself but to protect her from the abuse that she'd suffer over it. Even when I became generally liked the pattern remained. The only way to show interest was to make it such a huge, overblown show that I couldn't be outdone. Like sprinting through the halls doing jumps and rolls and rather impressive athletic feats just to get to her. At least she didn't reject me. She just made up an active social life until I figured out what she was doing and stopped trying.

Then there was college. The people were much nicer but the rejections were still universal until my junior year. I actually had one woman walk up to me on the sidewalk and say "I will never go out with you" and walk away. Several woman turned me down but couldn't say why. They admitted that I was everything they wanted in a man but they just weren't interested.

I'm long out of college now. I've answered a few personal ads but only one woman every wrote back. I've had a couple of women answer my personal ads since I moved to DC. Most didn't understand that "I don't want children" means that I don't want theirs, mine, or ours. Going out to try to meet women is a total failure. I can start the occasional conversation but never a date. To be fair there have been a few times I find myself talking to someone but I'm so habitualized to being single that I don't realize that I was getting hints to ask them out until several minutes after they left.

I bring this up because I recently responded to the personal ad of a seemingly wonderful and beautiful woman. She wrote back and we went on a date or two. There were some issues that I was willing to work around. But there were two real problems. The first is pretty standard in DC. Or maybe it's standard for any working woman who is still single at 30. I don't know. While she works less than most women I've met in DC she still works 6 days a week. And she's already scheduled most of her off time. I'm not sure why she posted a personal ad. Between work, classes, family, and friends she doesn't have time for anybody new in her life. The second problem is either that she's incredibly sensitive about her schedule and gets angry when someone asks for help finding a time when their schedules sync. Or she's just one of those people who is looking for someone to have a problem with them so they can get angry. Just a bit of feedback about when she was free could have helped so much. Instead I got rage just for asking.

Anyway, it's clearly not going to work out. I think she would have gotten along great with my friends when she'd finally meet them. But there's no real possibility of a romantic relationship. It's been a few days since I've worked this out. Luckily things didn't end with her freaking out and saying she didn't want to talk to me. We did IM and we were able to sort out what happened.

But I really put myself out when I approached her. I didn't get smacked down as thoroughly as some other women have done. But only because she was willing to talk about it after. But it's a huge let down to have to give up on this woman.

We may still be able to be friends, but she's gonna have to be the one to get in touch.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

State of the Union (by Adam Bomb)

Something I wrote following the 2003 State of the Union address.

State of the Union (by Adam Bomb)

There are brilliant men and there are men of action, but rarely do the two attributes combine in a single person. Our President, George W. Bush Jr., is the very epitome of perfection in an ideal mesh of those attributes. I mean it! The man is a God! How fabulous is George? Zeus came forth from HIS head! I mean WOW! Did you hear that talk last night? HE'S EVERYTHING MAN HAS BEEN BUILDING UP TO! MILlionS of YeaRsof EvolutION WitheGoAL of GEORGE!!!! GEOOOOOOOOOOREGE!!!!!
It's ok, I'mcalmI'mcalm... I'm calm... (big exhale) I. Am. Calm. Really. I just need my meds. A few cadmium tablets. I get excited sometimes.

Anyway, I was watching the State of the Union address last night with a few of the other guys from the silo. They're getting kind of old, but they can still get it up, if you know what I mean.
After that speech we were all primed. MaX, older fella, still remembers the good old Castro days, kept talking about how George may even be a better President than Ron. I mean most people don't like us. They're happy with their Patriots and Smart Missles and refuse to even consider sending us in. It's like they're embarassed of us or something. But George is really into equal opportunities. For too long my people have
been kept down, insulted, feared, and maligned. We deserve the same opportunites as everyone else! Do we not have Feeling!?! If you Shoot Us Do We Not OoZe? WE JUST WANT TO CONTRIBUTE! To Helpe MaKE THIS woRlD A BETTEre PLACE!!!!! NuKEsssssJUssssTWANNAGO BOOOOOM! BOOM, BABY! BOOM!


I've been seeing a therapist for this. He's helped a lot really. I'm much calmer these days. (pop a few more pills) Says I'm pent up. I need a release. I knitted this nice sweater. Do you Like iT? Toook Me alL moNth. Do You Like It!?! DO YOU!!!? ANSWER ME!

(pant) (pant) (pant)

Water. I just need some nice cold water.
Anyway, that Saddam guy is a threat. I had a cousin who used to live in Iraq. He said Saddam's totally loony. That's why I agree with George. You should listen to him and send in us big guns. We know how to deal with guys like him.

-Adam Bomb

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book review: When The Tripods Came

Long, long ago I was in Cub Scouts. And as a Cub Scout I got the magazine Boys' Life. Every month they'd have a one page cartoon that was based on a book. To read the whole story could take years. About the time I started getting them they'd started with the illustrated version of "The Tripods". For years I thought I'd missed a lot of it. But I recently saw all four books in the trilogy (the author went back and make a prequel) at the Friends of the Arlington Library book sale and snatched them up. My Krode was with me and it turned out he had digital versions of the Boys' Life series. I'd only missed a couple of pages.

The books are apparently rather popular in England. Popular enough to have a TV show based on them. Not popular enough for them to finish the show. There have been tales about a series of movies based on the books in the works.

The first book "When the Tripods Came" takes place roughly now. It tells the tale of how the Tripods first came to Earth and took over. They're really no match for our military so they create a TV show which latches on to susceptible minds and makes them huge fans of the Tripods and willing to follow orders. The show is translated into all languages and shown in every country. Viewers start to leave their homes and form communes. Then they spread out and start trying to get people to wear caps that have the same effect as the TV show.
The characters that the book focuses on flee England and face the rampant xenophobia the crisis has generated. They end up with the Swiss in the last refuge on Earth. As it falls they move into the mountains.

It's 150 pages and targeted at probably 5th grade readers. But it's not insultingly bad. Just a short, simple story that leads into three more similar books.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Northwest Passage

Last summer I reported that the Northwest Passage has opened. At least during the summer months it has. I find this simultaneously horrific and wonderful. On the one hand there's global warming and all that. On the other hand it opens up shipping routes and you and I can now cruise places that foiled some of history's greatest explorers. And I said that as soon as there's a cruise going through there I'm going.

Guess what?

Alas, I've already committed myself to my Space Shuttle trip this summer. And my deck is killing my bank account. There's only so much time I can take off work. But next summer, NEXT summer...

My favorite trip so far:
You start in Kamchatka, take a helicopter to an ice breaker off the coast and spend 20 days traveling to Resolute Bay.
Between $12K and $20K depending on your berth.

Another trip shaves off a week, is considerably cheaper, and looks more like a cruise.
It goes from Resolute Bay to Cambridge Bay or vice-versa depending on when you go.
$4,200 - $8,400

Monday, May 12, 2008

My First Earthquake: From Hasbro

I didn't even know it was an earthquake until the next morning when I heard about it on NPR. Otherwise it would have just blended into the day's events. But last Tuesday at about 1:30 there was a quake of about 1.8 on the Richter Scale near DC.

Everybody in the office thought it was something different.

I thought someone was pushing a very large and overloaded cart down the hall one floor up.

My boss thought that the landscaping crew was unloading more boulders and had accidentally dumped them all at once.

Some people thought it was the blasting out at Ft. Belvoir.

There was only the slightest tremble in the building and a loudish rumbling sound.

A couple people don't remember noticing anything.

Friday, May 09, 2008

random photo

Some days I can write a week of these in advance. Other times I've got nothing. Case in point, today. I actually have several old posts but I don't want to put them up for various reasons. So here's a picture I took last summer.
Not really what I was going for. I need to work with the aperture more.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Your mental image for the day

I remember when I was a kid, sitting on the fence with my friends, watching the sun setting slowly over the horizon, chewing a bit of beef jerky, chucking rocks into the minefield.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Gas prices and WalMart

Yes, I'm late. Staff meetings and birthday lunches and whatnot

You know why the price of gas is so high? It's because you shop at Walmart.

reason 1:
Walmart is such a monster of a company that they basically own all their suppliers. Walmart is such a huge part of their sales that they have to do what Walmart tells them or give up >50% of their sales. Walmart tells their suppliers to drop their prices and drop their prices until the company has to say "but we've cut everything that can be cut. We can't go any lower." Then Walmart tells them to move production to China. True. The company doesn't (usually) say "well we'll have to move production offshore". Walmart tells them to go to China or they'll switch suppliers. Without Walmart they're out of business.

So Walmart is cheap and everybody shops there. All our money goes to China. American manufacturing fails. The government borrows money from China. We sent that money to China. We borrow more. Eventually the dollar collapses and can't buy what it once could. So the price of gas goes up.

reason 2:
China's economy takes off because they're selling stuff to America. More and more Chinese can afford cars instead of bikes. Industry gears up and needs to run their factories. They need the oil almost as much as we do. So we get into a bidding war and the price goes up.

I like high gas prices. I don't drive. It forces better choices from those who do. Including this one. If you want cheaper gas and a better economy stop sending your money to China by shopping at Walmart.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book review: Beholder's Eye

I finished "Beholder's Eye" by Julie E Czerneda a week or so back.

I don't quite feel right reviewing this book. I don't know if it's all the oak pollen in the air or the book itself, but I just haven't felt like reading anything too heavy lately. This book just wasn't holding my attention. But then, a few other books I've picked up lately haven't either. Comic books and cartoon books, sure. That's light and easy and not at all taxing.

So, yes, this book. Sci-fi, of course. The central character is the youngest of a species that lives for thousands of years. It's only 300 years old or so. This species exists in an energy state and can share mass and memories. They take a physical form and go to a planet to learn about them. Once they completely understand a being they can take its form. They do this so that the culture and knowledge of a people can last long past when a culture self destructs or is destroyed.

This central character is off on her first mission. She's supposed to watch the people of a rather primitive people for 10 years. She's taken on a form similar to a dog to do this. It's actually an intelligent species that looks doglike except for fingers instead of pads on the paws. She finds out about some invaders and tags along with some military personnel going to deal with it. The invader turns out to be a first contact team from a large federation of planets. In fact, it's the third first contact team. The first two were never heard from again.

Things happen, and the central character manages to save the crew of the ship and get a ride off planet. She gets home and is in big trouble for letting her true identity get discovered.

She's sent back out with a new mission known only to her and the eldest of her people. A creature from a distant galaxy has arrived and is killing and destroying intelligent life. Her job is to gather information and return. Naturally, the mission parameters shift a bit.

The people of the federation have some idea what she is and assume that she's the threat destroying colonies and outposts along the rim. The creature finds out about her people and comes for them.

The book is good. It is. It tells the story well. It establishes the friendship between her and a human that becomes a regular companion through the rest of the story. It covers the adventures she has before the main storyline really gets going.

No science to speak of. Fantasy would be a better description.

My only complaint is that it took me so long to finish because I just couldn't pay attention. And I don't know if it was the writing or the pollen.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Movie review: Iron Man

Holy crap! A summer blockbuster that actually lives up to the hype.

First, a brief history of the Iron Man movie as seen by the public.

When they first said they were making an Iron Man movie I didn't expect much. Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Hulk, these are the first string heroes. They're who movie makers start with. If you do well with them, and those movies were pretty hit and miss, then you start trying to make money from the second stringers and even third stringers. Ok, some would argue Iron Man is a first stringer, but this is his first movie so he's a second stringer. Most geeks heard about Iron Man and expected a disaster. But we thought the same thing about Lord of the Rings.

Then they announced that Robert Downey Jr would be playing Tony Stark (the man inside the suit). Suddenly there was hope. The studio was a bit scared of RDj but the geeks knew he was the right man for the job. They're both wealthy, arrogant, womanizing, alcoholics. It's a perfect match.

Then we got the screen shots of the outfit. We were blown away. They got the look right and some great actors.

But it could all still go wrong. The more hype there was the more we dreaded. But we lived in hope. This could still rock.

And it did. Oh, this movie rocked so hard. I'm not a big reader of Iron Man so I can't really compare to the comics. Mostly I know of Iron Man from his recent role in superhero registration and firing The Hulk off to a distant planet. He's a genius who works with Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four a lot. He has a history of alcohol abuse.

What really struck me about this movie is the lack of a villain. There's bad guys, sure, but no classic villain. Tony Stark is his own worst enemy.

The movie starts with Tony returning from a weapons demonstration in a Humvee convoy. Terrorists attack and capture him. They keep the PG13 rating by keeping out the blood, but the blasts and the holes getting ripped in the Humvee and the soldiers dropping left and right were realistic and shocking enough that I might have upped it to R. Tony gets captured and taken to a cave where the terrorists want him to assemble on of his missile launchers for them.

So the weapons he designed and his company built to protect American soldiers is in the hands of terrorists and is why he's been kidnapped.

Flashback a day and a half. We see how much of a playboy, smart ass, care for nothing, party animal he really is. Then back to the cave where Tony has built a mini-reactor to power the electro magnet that is keeping metal fragments from penetrating his heart. Then he builds a prototype power suit that has to be navigated more by counting steps than seeing where he's going. But it still kills a lot of terrorists, sets a lot of stuff on fire, and flies a short distance. But it crashes in the desert and he leaves it behind.

Back home he tries to shut down the weapons division until he can figure out how to make better use of his money and company. He retreats into his lab and starts work on his new suit. This covers a lot of movie but you find you don't really mind. It's just fun to watch Stark interact with his robots and play with his new suit.

Meanwhile, the terrorists have found his old suit. Once more, Tony's creation is falling into the hands of bad people. But when he goes to deal with them in person it's a cake walk. Bip bop boop, done. But still quite entertaining.

The movie comes together at the end with him facing a giant, amped up version of his first suit.

Iron Man is all about cleaning up Tony Starks messes.

The whole thing sets up for a couple of sequels, a spin-off or three, and a crossover.

Really, this takes the best of Batman and Superman with the light heartedness of Spiderman or Mr. and Mrs. Smith.

It may not have the wide appeal that Batman Begins had but it's right up there.

Go see it. Go sit through the credits. Go get it on DVD.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Terry Pratchett

Recently the author Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series, was diagnosed with a form of Alzheimer's. I don't know what makes his unique, but he says that if you have to have Alzheimer's then this is the kind to have.

He recently gave $1,000,000 for research into a cure. When giving the money he also gave a speech. You can hear it below.

part 1

part 2

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bond Martini

I've been reading some old Ian Flemming James Bond books. Some are spot on for the movies and some are WAY off. James doesn't show up in "The Spy Who Loved Me" until near the end.

In "Casino Royale" Bond orders his classic martini. Alas, I didn't bookmark the page so I can't find it again easily. But that's what Google is for. Alas, 50-some years have passed since that book was written. Formulas have changed. You can't make the same martini. But there are some substitutions that can get you close.

Follow the link and I'll let this person explain.